WASHINGTON - In a move widely welcomed by Palestinian officials, internet giant Google has brought up the name Palestine on its search engine instead of Palestinian Territories, following the lead of the UN.
This is a step in the right direction, a timely step and one that encourages others to join in and give the right definition and name for Palestine instead of Palestinian territories, Dr Sabri Saidam, advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told the BBC on Friday, May 3.
Most of the traffic that happens now happens in the virtual world and this means putting Palestine on the virtual map as well as on the geographic maps, he added.
The change, introduced on 1 May, means google.ps now displays Palestine in Arabic and English under Google's logo.
The move marks another victory for the Palestinian Authority, after it won a historic upgrade at the United Nations General Assembly in November, gaining the status of non-member observer state.
A Google spokesman said Friday that the company was making the change across all our products.
We're changing the name 'Palestinian Territories' to 'Palestine' across our products, Google spokesman Nathan Tyler told the BBC on Friday.
We consult a number of sources and authorities when naming countries, he added.
In this case, we are following the lead of the UN, Icann [the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers], ISO [International Organization for Standardisation] and other international organizations.
In November, the UN gave Palestine the status of non-member observer state.
The decision by the General Assembly was strongly opposed by Israel and the United States. Previously, Palestine only had observer entity status.
It followed an unsuccessful Palestinian bid to join the international body as a full member state in 2011 because of a lack of support in the UN Security Council.
Dr Saidam said that since the UN vote on 29 November, the PA had written to international companies, including Google, asking them to replace their usage of Palestinian Territories with Palestine.
Unlike Palestinian welcome, Google move was criticized by Israeli officials.
This change raises questions about the reasons behind this surprising involvement of what is basically a private internet company in international politics, and on the controversial side, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor, told Agence France Press (AFP) news agency.
Yet, Palmor put down the significance of Google move.
It has no diplomatic or political significance, Palmor told an Israeli news Web site on Friday.
Precisely because Google is not the UN or any international diplomatic institution, this begs the question of whether there is room for any political stance on controversial issues.
Israel occupied Palestinian lands along with Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and Syria's Golan Heights in the 1967 Middle East War.
Israel returned Sinai Peninsula to Egypt under the 1979 Camp David peace accords.
Last May, US president Barack Obama has called for a Middle East peace settlement based on the pre-1967 borders.
Yet, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defiantly rejected calls for Israel's withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders.
In 2010, US-sponsored peace negotiations broke down over Israel's refusal to halt settlement building in the occupied Palestinian lands.
The Palestinians insist that Israel ceases all settlement activities in the occupied West Bank and Al-Quds (occupied East Jerusalem) to return to the peace talks.